Therapeutic Tunes

Therapeutic Tunes

The Tune Pals app lets parents and caregivers of children with cerebral palsy share and play the child's favorite sounds on a trio of brightly-colored, durable speaker "pals."

Graduating senior Lily Fan 16 ID (bottom photo, front row left) says that user experience design encourages her to empathize with the people she hopes will engage with her work. “You have to try to understand their psychology,” notes the Industrial Design major. In collaboration with classmates from RISD as well as students from MIT, Fan developed Tune Pals, a musical therapy tool designed to help children living with cerebral palsy.

Fan and fellow ID senior Lillian Krieger 16 ID (bottom photo, standing behind Fan) were two of the roughly 20 RISD students who participated in this spring’s Product Design and Development course at MIT. Responding to a product pitch by Caryn Glazer, a physical therapist and teacher at Brookline [MA] High School, the two designers and six MIT students built bright, Weeble-like “pals” that receive and play back sounds recorded with a Tune Pals app and are then shared with a child’s parents, teachers and other caregivers.

In their research, the team visited three different institutions that serve people with cerebral palsy. They were encouraged by the many professionals who told them that a product like Tune Pals has “huge potential” as an enjoyable and safe way to encourage movement in kids living with CP. The positive feedback was welcomed by Fan, who has devoted her years at RISD to honing her design skills for the good of others.

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